Designing Turtle Telemetry Equipment
by Joel Lim
Iím Joel Lim and Iím a product design student from Singapore. I am currently in the midst of a project that involves sea turtles. It all started with me watching the television during the holidays, when I happened to flip onto a channel talking about sea turtles. As I watched on, I saw what their plight was and I wanted to do something. So when school reopened and our teachers gave us a project to do, I decided to look into sea turtle conservation.
I thought really hard on what I could do and decided that I would really like to start on sea turtle tracking. This is because sea turtle tracking helps researchers learn about sea turtles and learning is already a form of conservation.
What I will be doing in this project is to improve the transmitter harness that is attached onto leatherbacks. I will also try to come up with improvements for the devices used by the researchers to track these turtles.
As I found out later (through a lot of research and help from Field Trip Earth researchers), the transmitter harness is one of the main concerns in turtle tracking. This is because long-term attachment causes the turtle to form calluses on the front and back flippers where there is contact. Drag is also a concern, as it causes the harness to cut into the soft flesh of the leatherback.
For starters, I would like to reduce the problem of the drag. To do this, I will try to locate the harness as close to the leatherbackís body as possible, and also make the transmitter on its back into a more streamlined shape. Next, I want to reduce the pressure that the drag applies on the shoulders of the leatherback by making broader straps; this should even out the pressure along its shoulders.
The next thing that I would like to do is to improve the receiver used by researchers to keep track on these turtles. After posting some questions to Field Trip Earth turtle researcher Catherine, I received some ideas on improving the receiver. Some suggested improvements include a receiver that can tell the depth and temperature the turtle is in.
Another aspect of this project is that it requires me to produce a product that is both futuristic in concept and achievable in the future. So I thought of giving the receiver a complete overhaul. The receivers that are used now are mostly blockish with monochrome displays. What I would like to see in the future of sea turtle tracking is a receiver that feels and looks more like a handheld computer, like a Palm. This would mean giving it a sleek new form and integrating it with a color display that allows researchers to view the whereabouts of the turtle immediately, without having to go through transferring and compiling the data. To further help the researchers, I want this receiver to have a memory card slot/USB port, which would allow them to transfer information easily. These ideas are kind of wild, but I think that it is something that would be achievable in the future.
About the author:
Joel Lim is a third-year student in Product and
Industrial Design at Temasek Polytechnic School of Designin
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